Building a Customer Experience Platform
A powerful solution for seeing, understanding and engaging with your customers
What is a customer experience platform?
The core concept behind the modern customer experience platform goes by many names. Whether they’re called digital experience platforms, experience management platforms, brand experience platforms, or customer journey management platforms, they’re all aiming for the same outcome: enabling companies to deliver a seamlessly consistent, exceptionally personalized experience to their customers — across every channel and interaction.
Customer experience platforms for mortgage lenders
Gartner has defined the category of the digital experience platform (DXP) as “an integrated software framework for engaging a broad array of audiences across a broad array of digital touchpoints.” For mortgage lenders, that last part is a little tricky. There’s no doubt that borrowers increasingly use digital channels. But direct mail and other non-digital channels remain more important in mortgage lending than in many other segments. That’s why the term customer experience platform is a better fit.
In essence, a customer experience platform is an integrated platform that empowers mortgage lenders to listen and talk to their customers — across every channel and at every point in the customer journey. A customer experience platform provides 360° visibility into that customer journey — every customer action, across every channel and touchpoint — and includes the tools to orchestrate hyper-personalized, hyper-relevant messages and engagement activities at every step of that journey.
Why customer experience matters — more than ever
Most companies today, across every segment, compete based on customer experience — not product or price. Consumer research regularly demonstrates that consumers seek out — and are willing to pay a premium for — better experiences. The experience revolution is being driven by the digital transformation of everyday life. Smartphones put infinite options at our fingertips. We’ve been Amazon Prime-d to expect hyper-personalized service that anticipates our needs and wants. And these rising expectations for seamless convenience, personalization and instant gratification naturally bleed into every other aspect of consumers’ lives.
Many home buyers and borrowers now rank customer experience higher than pricing as the main reason for choosing a mortgage lender. A study from McKinsey also shows that a reputation for exceptional customer experience drives greater referral volume.
What mortgage customers want: meaningful personalization + seamless convenience
Borrowers today are savvy consumers; they sniff out lame attempts at personalization. They want more than their first name at the top of a form letter. Buying or refinancing a home is one of the biggest financial transactions a person will ever make, and decision-making can be daunting. A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that the most important thing mortgage borrowers want is reassurance and support. They expect meaningful personalization that gives them truly relevant, useful information to support their decision-making. Mortgage lenders that deliver on this expectation reap the rapid and lasting rewards of engagement, trust and loyalty. If personalization is the hook that draws customers in, seamless convenience is the glue that keeps them. That same PwC survey found that simplicity was the second-most important thing borrowers expect. Mortgage lenders know that the mortgage origination process involves many stakeholders. But to borrowers, it’s a single decision and a single transaction — and they want a consistent, easy experience at each step of the journey. That means making it easy for borrowers to connect to or obtain information — in whatever channel they choose. And it also means having the centralized customer visibility to orchestrate a consistent, supportive and personalized experience.
How customer experience platforms solve a growing challenge
The emergence of customer experience platforms is the result of the natural evolution and convergence of several other technologies commonly used by mortgage lenders — tools ranging from customer relationship management (CRM), to website management and content management systems (CMS), to marketing communications and marketing automation technologies, to multi-channel contact center systems. These technologies all have a role to play in enhancing the customer experience, but a true customer experience platform solves a growing problem: As the typical mortgage lending organization adds more and more channels and tools for connecting with customers, the disparate systems are creating siloed data streams.
In other words, the modern mortgage lending business has more ways than ever to connect with borrowers — and more data than ever on its borrowers — but no single, centralized command center for managing those borrower relationships. Without simple, 360° customer visibility, the customer experience becomes disjointed and inconsistent. It’s hard to deliver on customers’ expectations for seamless experiences when the back-end reality is that they’re jumping between disjointed technologies and systems. And it’s much more difficult to deliver meaningful personalization when you’re acting on incomplete information about where the customer is in their journey.
Why data silos are a big problem for mortgage lenders
Forrester says that the lack of a unified, 360° view of the customer is the top challenge for enterprise customer experience teams — across all segments. But it’s a particularly big problem for mortgage lenders. The mortgage origination and closing process is complex and collaborative. In addition to the multiple internal systems lenders use, they’re also working with income, employment and asset verification providers, insurance and fraud protection providers, appraisal and title partners — the list goes on. Critical data about borrowers is commonly stuck within the silos of these service providers’ systems. At best, this leaves lenders unable to get a real-time view to their customers’ journeys — and unable to deliver the personalized support and guidance that borrowers want to help them through the process. Perhaps worse, it often leads to inconsistent and redundant customer experiences, where lenders are acting on incomplete or inaccurate information, confusing borrowers or burdening them with re-entering information.
Building a centralized customer data platform to drive customer journey management
Customer experience platforms are closely related to another major buzz term: customer journeys. Mortgage lenders need to break down data silos to gain a 360° view of their customers — so they can see exactly where their customers are at every step of the customer journey. This starts with building a centralized customer data platform that automatically aggregates, integrates and orchestrates all customer data, from every system and channel, into a single source of truth. Customer journey management is all about using that 360° visibility to deliver the meaningful connections and relevant information that engages, supports and empowers customers.
What are the key components of a customer experience platform?
Best-in-class customer experience platforms offer a suite of tools that are built from the ground up to work seamlessly together to drive consistent, exceptional, end-to-end customer experiences. The specific components, as well as the naming, may vary, but most include the following:
- Customer data platform: A foundational data aggregation, storage and orchestration engine that serves as the centralized “smart hub” for the entire organization.
- Pre-built integrations & robust APIs: Leading customer data platforms don’t just integrate data form the components within the customer experience platform. They come with pre-built integrations to other best-of-breed technologies — from loan origination systems, to product and pricing engines, to point-of-sale systems — and offer robust APIs that enable custom integrations. This ensures that all relevant customer data streams are feeding into a single, centralized source of actionable truth.
- CRM: Most customer experience platforms feature a purpose-built CRM tool that empowers the sales team to efficiently and effectively foster genuine relationships with customers. Again, leading platforms feature integrations and APIs that enable mortgage lenders to easily integrate their own CRM tool if desired.
- Marketing automation: To drive lead generation and nurturing campaigns, customer experience platforms include marketing automation solutions that leverage sophisticated analytics, AI and machine learning capabilities. This marketing automation powers more targeted and more efficient marketing communications that fully leverage the insights from the centralized customer data platform.
Built-in compliance tools: Mortgage lenders have a long list of compliance requirements, which can add time, cost and hassle to sales and marketing initiatives. Leading customer experience platforms build compliance functionalities right into workflows, such as automatic compliance checks for sales messages and marketing campaigns, and end-to-end digital audit and on-demand reporting capabilities.
How does a customer experience platform work?
There are three steps to putting a customer experience platform into action for your organization:
- Step 1: SEE – Customer journey mapping
Best practice starts with customer journey mapping — understanding your unique end-to-end customer journeys. This typically begins as an abstract exercise — mapping out the key touchpoints, customer behaviors or actions, from initial lead-gen campaigns and inquiries, to closing and ongoing engagement efforts. Customer journeys look different for every lender — and most lenders have slightly different journeys by product or service line.
- Step 2: UNDERSTAND – Customer data analytics & customer experience insights
Creating a giant pool of centralized customer data isn’t valuable in and of itself. Lenders need to unlock the actionable insights hiding within all that data — but hiring data scientists to do ongoing data mining is expensive and impractical. The built-in analytics, AI and machine learning capabilities of leading customer experience platforms enable lenders to mine their integrated customer data in real time — and deliver simple, relevant analytics insights that anyone can understand. For example, analytics tools can help mortgage lenders pull out critical customer actions and behaviors that indicate high-value connection points — such as rate inquiries, starting a new loan application, or reaching an equity milestone.
- Step 3: ACT – Deliver the right message at the exact right time
Just as a pile of data isn’t valuable on its own, a set of insights aren’t valuable unless you’re able to act on them. Best-in-class customer experience platforms deliver intelligent automation capabilities that use real-time customer insights to automatically trigger hyper-targeted customer engagement activities — from marketing messages with perfectly personalized information and resources, to perfectly timed sales follow-up to answer questions and provide guidance. This intelligent automation is the “secret sauce” of next-generation customer experience platforms, empowering your people to be more targeted, more efficient and more effective with their customer engagement efforts — and giving them more time to focus on making genuine human connections with customers.
Keys for buying a digital customer experience platform
- Look for purpose-built solutions for the mortgage lending industry: There are countless tools and technologies that purport to solve customer experience challenges — and new ones pop up every day. There are also well-established generalist MarTech and CRM systems that a mortgage lender could use. But both these popular generalist solutions and start-up tools will typically leave mortgage lenders tasked with extensive customization — custom integrations, building workflows, identifying customer behavior triggers, etc. However, there are well-established customer experience platforms that are purpose-built for the mortgage lending industry. These purpose-built platforms are much more likely to offer the other key features covered below.
- Look for robust integrations with your existing tools & technologies: Gaining 360° customer visibility and creating a centralized customer data platform requires integrating all your relevant customer data streams — not just most of them. Seek out a customer experience platform that comes with pre-built integrations for your major existing systems — loan origination, CRM, PPE, POS, etc. And ensure that the platform has robust APIs that make it quick and easy to build custom integrations where necessary.
- Look for pre-built workflows with easy customization: The customer journey and customer engagement workflows of a mortgage lender look much different than that of a big-box retailer or a streaming content provider. Purpose-built customer engagement platforms come with out-of-the-box workflows that more closely fit the way your mortgage lending business works — and can be quickly tweaked to fit the way your people want to work.
- Look for AI- and machine learning-powered intelligent automation: Understanding your opportunities to deepen customer engagement and loyalty is just the first hurdle. Loan officers and marketing teams are already stretched thin, and manually acting on all of those customer behavior insights is simply not possible in most cases. Seek out customer experience platforms that feature advanced AI and machine learning capabilities that drive the intelligent automation. More specifically, your solution should be able to automatically recognize critical customer actions and behaviors — and automatically trigger meaningful actions as part of your customer engagement strategies and campaigns.
- Look for built-in compliance functionalities: Navigating compliance requirements can painfully slow down marketing, sales and other customer engagement activities. Seeking out a customer engagement platform purpose-built for the mortgage lending industry can help you find a solution that has thoughtfully built essential compliance functionality right into your core workflows.
- Look for a partner that speaks your language: No matter what some vendors suggest, there is no such thing as a “plug and play” solution for customer experience management. Even purpose-built platforms require fine-tuning and tweaking to perfectly fit the way your business and your people work. Some vendors leave you holding the burden of customizing and optimizing the solution. Moreover, not all “dedicated support” is the same. Seek out a vendor partner that knows the mortgage lending business — and more readily understands how to fit the platform and workflows to your business’ unique needs and requirements.
It’s all about time-to-value and speed-to-market
Most mortgage lenders know they need better technologies to enhance their customer engagement strategies. But implementing an enterprise software platform — one that’s responsible for integrating all your customer data streams and orchestrating your end-to-end customer journeys — sounds like a daunting, painful, slow and costly task. The truth is that it doesn’t have to be.
It’s true that generalist solutions typically require extensive customization that adds time and cost. It’s also true that overly specialized and underdeveloped solutions often fail to deliver the full value they promise. But in the sweet spot between these extremes is the ideal of a purpose-built customer experience platform that’s big enough to give you the functionality and support you need — and focused enough to do it well and roll out quickly. To help identify a solution that sits in that sweet spot, here are two essential outcomes to focus on: time-to-value and speed-to-market. From an implementation perspective, how quickly can your team begin leveraging the solution in order to drive value and ROI for your business? And from an everyday use perspective, how quickly can the solution move from incoming customer data to outgoing hyper-targeted messages? By keeping an unwavering focus on optimizing those two critical outcomes, mortgage lenders can identify, build and deploy a customer experience platform that empowers them to deliver the next-generation customer experiences that drive top-line growth — and simultaneously enable the highly automated, intelligent workflows that drive bottom-line efficiency.